Obama Administration Outlines Policy on Medical Errors

In the wake of their expose on massive, nationwide medical errors – Dead by MistakeHearst Newspapers reports that “while the White House acknowledges that hospital medical errors are ‘a big and serious problem,’ a senior administration official says President Barack Obama does not favor a mandatory reporting system for all medical mistakes, just for infections.” The Administration argues for this separation because “while infections can be easily documented, not every medical mistake is a clear-cut error on the scale of the amputation of the wrong limb or application of the wrong drug.” The official said, “Once you get past the clear cases, it gets a lot harder” to assign blame. “Many of the cases are much more ambiguous.” Some supporters “say the White House might simply be making a pragmatic decision to postpone a fight over error reporting.”

Meanwhile, Laura Lando writes in the Wall Street Journal that hospitals are starting to be a lot more open after medical errors.  While there intentions might not be purely altruistic (they are trying to avoid future lawsuits), the hospitals are increasingly offering greater disclosure to patients after errors.  Landro writes that there is some indication patients are less likely to sue after full disclosure and offered compensation.  Landro also recounts specific instances of hospitals disclosing medical errors then creating new programs to avoid the same errors happening in the future.

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